Toddlers Build Early Reading Foundation

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Parents are the first and most important teachers of their children. The volunteers at Rim Country Family Literacy (RCFL) emphasize this belief.

Teaching families how to involve their preschoolers in concepts that develop literacy is their objective. RCFL successfully meets this goal by involving a dozen children and their mothers in a six-week early literacy class.

"We've come in here to help our preschoolers learn to read," said parent Sue Becker. "They've been giving us a lot of handouts that give us strategies to help."

One tip Becker has learned is that when she is reading with her child she needs to stop and ask her child more questions about the story.

"There's a lot more to reading than just reading the words and being done with it. Especially the comprehension, even at this young age," she said.

The mothers, were given visual aids.

"We've had different projects on them," Becker said. "We can cut them up into puzzles where the kids can get visual clues. We're getting a start here at an early age."

Becker's son's favorite book, "Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?" by Bill Martin is one that RCFL lets parents to keep.

"He pretends to read it. He knows all the words. He flips the pages at the right time," she said

In a classroom, separate from their parents, children aged 2 to 5 are having fun. They are acting out stories, using manipulatives and doing projects related to the books they are being read.

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Rim Country Family Literacy has used the llama book created by Richard Falkenberg and his wife as a teaching tool. The Falkenbergs put together different pictures that they thought would be interesting to the children. Richard tells children how llamas live and act. "Llamas are a gentle, quiet animal. They have toenails with a pad underneath. They hum to each other for identification," he said. Emma is interacting with Memory Oh Four, while Ivan and Falkenberg watch.

The brown bear book by Martin teaches rhyme, rhythm, colors and repetition.

"It is a very simplistic way to start learning that those squiggly little black things on the paper actually mean something," teacher June Schranz said. "The book is one of the best in the world for teaching children to read."

"Mrs. Wishy Washy" by Joy Cowley and Elizabeth Fuller is another student and teacher favorite.

In the amusing picture book, farm animals all have fun jumping into a large mud puddle much to Mrs. Wishy Washy's dismay. While she washes them the children in the literacy program and their teachers make wishy washy movements with their bodies.

After Mrs. Wishy Washy washes them clean the farm animals say, "Oh lovely mud!" and jump back into the puddle.

"You think kids don't enjoy reading this?" Schranz asked rhetorically.

Families who are involved in their children's educational growth and development have children who are more successful in school studies show.

Mother of three, Sherry Rheinhart said that her other children read to her 4-year-old son more than she does.

Because of the class Rheinhart said she is disciplining herself to read to all of her children more.

"Now I know how to keep all of their interest with different level books. It's kind of neat."

Learning to read and write is one of the most empowering achievements in life.

Rim Country Literacy will be offering Early Literacy again in August of this year. To sign up for classes call (928) 468-7257.

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